A Saudi Arabian English-language student who wears full Islamic covering is receiving counselling after a traumatic night lost on Auckland's North Shore.

With very limited English and signs of panic hidden behind her burqa, Malak Faisal Alanazi, 18, was overlooked by people passing by when she found herself in an unfamiliar patch of suburbia on Monday night.

She had made the trip over the Harbour Bridge only once before and had lost the piece of paper that had directions.

Navigating a city alone was a foreign concept to Alanazi as in Saudi Arabia, women must be accompanied by a male guardian. Women are also banned from driving and must cover all of their body except for the eyes and hands.

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As darkness fell, a Muslim woman came to Alanazi's aid and gave her a bed for the night.

Her panic-stricken host family had called the language school and the police. At 4am a formal missing person alert was issued, saying Alanazi had been last seen at Britomart when her brother, also here for a three-week English course, put her on the correct bus. Her family had told police she would struggle to ask for help.

After a sleepless night for all involved, the good samaritan dropped Alanazi at the school.

Police spokeswoman Natalie Swart said the woman had done the right thing by helping but added it would have been "helpful" if she had thought to notify the police.

The Herald on Sunday agreed not to name the language school at which Alanazi was studying. Alanazi had been given a cellphone to use during her stay.